Best Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

When you interview an applicant, you have to gather as much information as possible in a short period. Gleaning enough about a candidate to determine whether they’re right for a role is challenging — but by asking good interview questions, you’ll not only get a clearer idea of their skills and experience, but also get a sense for their conversational skills, problem-solving skills, cultural add and ability to think quickly.
 

The best way to adequately assess a candidate for both skill fit and culture add is to ask questions that are specific to the company or role as well as broader questions that give the applicant an opportunity to show their personality and ability to think critically under pressure.

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Half of employers ask 5-10 questions during an average in-person interview

 
Here are a few of the best interview questions to ask candidates.
 

1. What career accomplishment makes you most proud?

While it’s important to hire someone who can do the job well, you also want to hire an employee who takes pride in their work. By asking the candidate to share their favorite career accomplishment, you give them the opportunity to share a career highlight — but this will also help you better understand the type of work that makes them feel fulfilled and determine whether it’s aligned with what the role entails.
 

Related: How to Conduct a Successful Virtual Interview on Indeed
 

2. Tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your resume.

Job seekers carefully craft their resumes to provide the best summary of their professional experience, but you can’t learn everything about a candidate from what they put down on paper. This question is purposefully vague and allows the interviewee to decide whether they want to share something job-related or not. They may choose to tell you about their volunteer work, the sabbatical they took to travel the world or another defining experience.
 

The way they choose to respond to this question, and the story they share, can tell you a lot about the type of employee they will be and what they will be able to contribute to your company culture.
 

3. Why do you want to work here?

This question is your opportunity to determine how much an employee has researched the company, and get a better idea of what they’re looking for in an employer. When asking this question, listen carefully for details about your organization and any parallels the applicant is drawing between your company and their career aspirations.
 

4. What made you want to apply for this position?

This is one of the best interview questions to ask because it delves into specifics about the job role. It shows how carefully the candidate read the job description, and also gives them the chance to share why they feel they’d be a good addition to your team. A well-crafted answer will touch on skills the applicant has as well as skills they want to develop or improve.
 

5. What are your greatest weaknesses?

This question is one of the most popular interview questions for a reason: it helps you quickly learn a lot about a candidate. This question enables you to deduce three things:
 

  • Whether the candidate’s weaknesses could conflict with job requirements or hamper their ability to excel in the role
  • Whether or not the candidate is self-aware enough to know their weaknesses without having to think for too long
  • How a candidate is working to improve on their shortcomings

6. What are your greatest strengths?

Like addressing weaknesses, when a candidate talks about their strengths, it shows their level of self-awareness and humility. This interview question also gives the applicant a chance to discuss how their best qualities align with the needs of the role and even demonstrate how they will use their strengths to help the company reach its goals.
 

7. Tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it.

Everyone has experienced challenging circumstances at work, and often it’s in these moments that professionals grow the most. This is one of the best interview questions to ask because it allows the candidate to tell you about how they perform under pressure and also discuss their problem-solving skills and ability to manage stress.
 

8. Why are you leaving your current employer?

When you ask this question, pay close attention to how the candidate talks about their former job. Are they focusing on the negative aspects, or do they err more on the positive side by addressing their hopes for the future? The interviewee’s ability to show respect for their previous employer and workplace demonstrates their civility and professionalism, which are two essential attributes in any role.
 

9. Tell me about a time you had to manage a particularly heavy workload. How did you handle it?

This is one of the best questions interviewers should ask because it reveals a candidate’s organizational and time management skills, as well as how they deal with stressful situations — such as an increase in workload. Look for specific ways the candidate prioritizes a long list of tasks, adapts to new challenges and works with others to get the job done.
 

10. Describe a time when you had to work with someone whose personality or work style was very different from yours.

Being able to work well with other people with different backgrounds, communication styles and personalities is an important part of nearly every job. This question gives the candidate a chance to show off their teamwork, interpersonal and problem-solving skills, including how they compromise, communicate and collaborate to achieve a goal or task. It can also give you deeper insight into their personality and work style.
 

See more: Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask Candidates
 

11. What are your long-term career goals?

By asking the candidate to discuss their long-term career goals, you can get a feel for how ambitious, goal-oriented and hardworking they are. Look for career goals that align with your company’s values, mission and/or goals. This question can also reveal how long the candidate plans on staying at your company. For example, if their long-term career goals can’t be accomplished by working at your company, it may not be the best fit.
 

12. How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?

One of the best questions for interviewers to ask candidates is what their goals are for professional development. A candidate may be focused on improving a weakness, building upon a strength or picking up a new skill that can help them in their career. Above all, this question can give insight into a candidate’s willingness to invest in their own growth.
 

13. How would your previous coworkers describe you?

This question can reveal a candidate’s various personality traits that may help them adapt to the role and company, examples of times when their characteristics helped them succeed in their past roles and how self aware they are. Asking how previous coworkers would describe them can also give you insight into their interpersonal and collaboration skills. Consider asking for specific examples of peer feedback to get a better idea of a candidate’s strengths.
 

14. How many jellybeans can fit in a suitcase?

This is a guesstimate interview question that doesn’t require an accurate answer. Instead, it gives candidates the chance to demonstrate their thought process. Pay attention to how a candidate attempts to solve the problem. Do they ask you additional clarifying questions? Do they break the problem down into smaller pieces? Ask them to think out loud to see their problem-solving skills in action.
 

See more: Five Terrific Brain Teaser Interview Questions


A job interview is your opportunity to get a feel for whether or not a candidate is qualified, but also if they’re someone with whom other employees would enjoy working and if they could contribute positively to your culture. By asking these questions, you can better assess both skill level and cultural add, which are two of the most important factors to consider when choosing a new hire.
 

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Last updated: Sep 08, 2020